Keeping Faith Real

Yesterday’s post addressed Satan’s tactic of messing with the body to destroy a man’s faith. Sickness, handicap, fleshly pleasure, addiction, etc all work for Satan to trip you up.

There is a tendency in modern “Christianity” to stress the spiritual, (positional) benefits of Christ above all else. Now, in saying this, I do not intend to say that the spiritual benefits of Christ should be diminished. Don’t take me there cuz I aint a travelin’ that way.

What I am saying is that Christ accomplished many great things for us, let’s not sell Him and His grace short. Here’s an example.

We stress the judicial declaration of righteousness in Christ. We celebrate that we are forgiven, made righteous, washed, made new, all the riches of Christ’s righteousness are imputed to our account. To which I say, “Amen!”

But then I say, “Since that’s true, you should be defeating sin in your life” and peoples’ heads explode. “I’ve been released from the law! Don’t try to put me back under it by saying I have to do stuff” is said in response.

I agree that we are not under Law, I also agree with the conclusions of that statement: the power or strength of sin is the Law, right? Yup. So if we’re not under Law we should increasingly be aware of not being under the power of sin, right? Not necessarily.

See, that bugs me! Christ did not die so we could go on sinning and just be happier about it. Christ died to free us from the power of sin even now.

Faith is very practical, it really is. Be careful not to put it in the clouds, keep it in heaven but apply it in this present world.

Ten Shekels and a Shirt

I came across this sermon (Ten Shekels and a Shirt by Paris Reidhead) from way back. Apparently I’ve lived in a hole or something because everyone who has heard it says this is a classic sermon, one everyone needs to hear.

So I found it online and gave it a listen. It’s pretty excellent! There’s some good ol’ fashion hell-fire preaching, but it’s all good. The basic premise is that we ought not use humanistic motivations to “sell” or respond to the Gospel.

You should download it and give it a listen.

Your Body and Your Faith

Satan thought that the way to get Job to take a tumble was to mess with Job’s body. “But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.”

Why did Satan assume this? Granted, he was wrong in this instance, but Satan knew that attacking a man’s flesh will likely get him to renounce his faith. Satan’s been around, he knows things about us.

Faith is easy until there’s a physical cost. That’s when we find out if it’s real or not. The Parable of the Sower makes this point: supposed faith dies out when life gets tough.

Although there are exceptions to every rule (except there are no exceptions to the rule that all rules have exceptions), what your body (flesh) goes through will determine the reality of your faith.

I believe this is why Paul says in Romans 12 that we are to “present our bodies as living sacrifices.” Paul does not make faith ethereal, floaty, mystical spiritism. Nope, he says it’s about your body being sacrificed.

I know this sounds out-of-place in our modern easy-believism, but it is Bible Truth.

Strong’s Concordance and Lexicon

Just found this cool deal. Here is a link to the online Strong’s Concordance and Greek and Hebrew Lexicon. This site allows you to type in a Strong’s number and find all the usages of that Hebrew or Greek word in the KJV. The KJV translates words differently and this is a great tool to find the full meaning of a word. It’s much quicker and easier on the wrists than using the huge books!

Practical Post-Millennialists

Post-millennialism, according to the last census, is held by only eight people now. They are a lonely group and yet very happy.

Post-millennialism says that Christianity will be a huge success, taking over the world, conquering Satan and once everything is running smooth as butter, Christ returns.

This view was invented in the 16th to 17th centuries. It was the mindset of Puritans and America being a shining city on a hill. The 20th Century was pretty rough and post-millennialists couldn’t quite hang on through two world wars, the great depression and disco music.

What amazes me today, however, is the number of pre-millennialists who act like post-millennialists practically. Here’s what I mean.

A major underlying theme of pre-millennialism is that Christianity fails, the world completely topples into horrible sin and the church sinks into apostasy. In other words: pessimists only need apply.

So, pre-millennialist believers think the rapture is, like right around the corner, what with Middle East tensions, UN cries for global currency, computer chip ID schemes and increased sightings of Elvis.

What these people never quite seem to grasp is that yes, all those things are a sure sign The End is coming (with the possible exception of Elvis sightings), but so is apostasy in the church.

Modern American Christianity is stinking happy. I mean, waaaaay too happy. God is in every parking spot, church ministries are practically heaven-sent, breathless anticipation of what God will do next are voiced constantly.

I don’t get it. It makes no rational sense. A sign of The End coming is that people will not endure sound doctrine, they will want to hear happy thoughts and will clamor to places that give em that.

The people who are not enduring sound doctrine are not Muslims, they are your church. They are us supposed believers. Christianity does not win. We go down in horrible flames.

This is one main reason I am a pre-millennialist (close second to: because it’s totally right): it’s just pretty much what’s happening.

Even so, come quickly.

Pharisees Were Right. . .

. . . occasionally.

Pharisees don’t have a good reputation. Granted this reputation is well-deserved! However, let’s think about them for a minute. Here are some things that Pharisees believed:

*There is one God
*He is the creator of the world
*There is a resurrection
*There is a heaven and a hell
*Scripture is their authority
*There are angels

Hey, not bad, better than most American Christians, in fact. The fact that they believed many true things didn’t mean they had the truth though.

This is something we need to be aware of in our day. Lots of people sound like they have truth, but listen for a while and you’ll soon be able to discern how much truth they have.

The Pharisees did believe Scripture was their authority, as long as you define “Scripture” as “my favorite parts of the Bible.” This same mindset has crept into modern faith as well.

Satan is a deceiver and a classic technique of his is to use snippets of truth, just leave out tiny bits of it. Watch out for that, it can destroy your soul.

Eschatology Matters

Lately there has been much discussion on the internets about End Times stuff, otherwise known as “eschatology.” The debate is over whether your view of The End really matters.

Should Christians that agree about the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ and the shedding of blood for the remission of sins divide over what order they think The End arrives in?

Basic consensus: it shouldn’t.

I guess I would disagree. I think it does matter and it is important enough to divide over, in my humble opinion.

How you interpret the Bible’s teaching on the coming kingdom shows a considerable amount of how you view Scripture. In order to maintain the “amillennial” view you have to conclude that about half of Scripture is spiritualized, allegory, and thus, God didn’t really mean what He said.

This bothers me. If a guy tells me that all that talk about Israel getting a kingdom was just made up, God didn’t really mean it, I will have a problem. What else did God not mean? The only thing God talks about as much as a coming kingdom on earth for Israel is the Gospel itself. Did God mean that part? How can we tell? Surely not by repetition.

Anyway, for further thoughts on it you can listen to my sermon from yesterday on Isaiah 2. If you disagree with me, fine, but don’t comment unless you listen to my sermon first!

Church Raid

Voice of the Martyrs has a video clip of a church being raided by government folks who disperse the meeting. It is a real situation happening more and more.

Americans take church so flippantly. We sit around and debate whether we even need it or not. We skip it for rain, for sleep, for sniffles, for no reason at all. Some don’t even consider it.

Do we have any idea?

God Does Not Trust You!

The word “confidence” appears in the KJV 38 times. We are told not to put confidence in man. We are told to put much confidence in God. Paul also says he has confidence in the Lord concerning the people he is writing to.

That’s pretty much the usages of the word.

In all these usages note that not once does it ever say that God has confidence in us! I want you to know what this means: God does not trust you. There is no way He would ever place confidence in you.

In our day of hyper-self-esteem this seems like a giant slap in the face.

 However, for the man of the One Book, this is total relief!

Contemning Evil People

Psalm 15 is a masterpiece of brevity. Who can live with God? The one who does the following things. Go ahead, click on the link, you won’t regret reading it.

One of the characteristics of a man who can live with God is that “In whose eyes a vile person is contemned.” Wow! Really? Maybe we should look up that word “contemned” and make sure we know what it means.

It means to despise or disdain. Wow is right!

Many will chalk this up to Old Testament bad attitude, the way believers were before God invented grace. I would disagree. I see it as having the mind of Christ. Christ sends vile people to hell, let’s not forget that point.

Now, granted, this is not the only point about Christ and one must be careful to avoid over-emphasizing one attribute. But a man who knows what holiness is will have much difficulty thinking highly of one who rejects all that holiness is. Comes with the territory. Be not unequally yoked, etc.

One way you know you dwell with God is that you are not fond of people who trample all that God is.

Pyromaniacs on Sin

A few points from a Pyromaniacs post about the nature of sin and sinners:

  • Sin only makes sense to itself (cf. Genesis 3), and to other apostates (Proverbs 28:4a).
  • Sin makes you irrational, insane, crazy, nuts (cf. Genesis 3—Revelation 22; especially, for instance, Genesis 3:8; Numbers 13-14; Matthew 12:24; Ephesians 4:17-19).
  • People locked into a sin are impervious to logic, facts and Scripture (cf. Genesis 3:9-10).
  • People locked into a sin always say it’s someone else’s fault (cf. Genesis 3:12-13).
  • People locked into a sin hate anyone who tries to tell them the truth, no matter how humbly nor lovingly (cf. 1 Kings 22:8; John 3:19-21; Proverbs 15:12).
  • People in love with a sin will always find dire and horrendous fault with anyone who tries to part them from it (cf. Proverbs 9:7-8a).
  • Sin destroys, ruins, kills. Its sales-line is a lie: it has nothing we really want (cp. Genesis 3:5 and 7; Romans 6:23).
  • Sin doesn’t care who it hurts, nor how much, nor how devastatingly, as long as it gets its way (cf. Matthew 10:34-36).
  • There is no sin — no sin — that can’t make an excuse for itself that makes sense to itself (cf. John 11:50; Philippians 3:19 [“they glory in their shame”]).
  • Every unrepentant sinner sees himself as noble (cf. John 16:2).
  • Every unrepentant sinner sees his sin as different (cf. Romans 2:3-5).
  • Everything a sinner does to “fix” his situation apart from repentance only serves to make it much, much worse (cf. the sad story of Saul)
  • You can’t talk anyone out of sin (cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-26).
  • The only and sovereign cure for sin, still, is the blood of Christ, applied through humbled repentance (cf. Matthew 3:8; Luke 5:32; 15:7; 24:47; Acts 11:18; 17:31; 20:21; 26:20). There is no “therapy” for sin (cf. 1 John 1:8-10).
  • Victor Kuligin on Jesus’ Easy Load

    “We always have had a tendency to excise in the teachings of Jesus what we find uncomfortable. However, we must not fool ourselves into believing that the lightened load we have created for ourselves will get us to our intended destination. Ironically, the more we look to remove from the burden of Christ, the more we have unwittingly placed on our own backs.”

    From his great book, Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said. Get it and read it several times.

    Defend the Fatherless

    The Old Testament often lists virtues that God approves of. One virtue that frequently appears is protecting the oppressed.

    God, knowing we would wonder who the oppressed are until the day we die, goes ahead and tells us. The oppressed are the poor, the lame, the widow, and the fatherless.

    This does not mean that everyone in this state is oppressed necessarily, but it is one thing to look for. What struck me with these lists is how the “motherless” never make an appearance.

    “Fatherless” children show up several times. “Motherless” children don’t show up at all. I wonder why this is?

    I think, as with most cases, context lets us know. We are to defend the fatherless because the fatherless don’t have a man to defend them. A kid needs a man. Motherless kids still have a man to defend them.

    I understand this is no doubt bigotry in many quarters, but I’m not the one who said it. Kids who have dads don’t need defending. Kids who only have moms do. I imagine that means more than surface stuff.

    Hedges of Protection

    “I just pray a hedge of protection around her and her family.”

    How many times have you heard it?

    What is a “hedge of protection?” It makes me think of Roger the Shrubber.

    As far as I can figure, it comes from Job 1:10 where Satan says that the only reason Job is faithful is because God has “made an hedge about him.”

    Every other usage of “hedge” seems to be a negative thing, God won’t let certain people get away with stuff.

    I guess I’m not opposed to the terminology, other than the fact it seems odd in our English. In our desire to be relevant seems we would be praying that God would “put a Brinks Home Security System about her and her family.”

    God did not put a hedge around Job because someone asked Him to. The hedge was there because Job was a righteous man who feared God and departed from sin.

    God can remove it if He so desires but still no one knows why. God is in charge of the hedges. If you have one, be glad. If you don’t, apparently you should still be glad. Don’t be a hedge hog.

    Getting up for Church

    John Fletcher was a Church of England pastor in the 1700’s. He got tired of people telling him they couldn’t make it to church because they couldn’t get up early enough to get their families ready. Here’s his solution:

    “Taking a bell in his hand, he set out every Sunday for some months at five in the morning, and went round the most distant parts of the parish inviting all inhabitants to the house of God.”

    Awesome.

    More Faith than a Donkey

    Isaiah is trying to wake up the people of Judah. They are sound asleep when it comes to listening to God.

    However, they still “do church.” They do their sacrifices, pray, go to the temple, keep feast days and on and on. God is not impressed though. Jumping through religious hoops has never impressed God. Never ever.

    God is looking for something better. He’s looking for a healed heart and for people who listen to what He says. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. God wants us to listen.

    Note: Eden was perfect because people listened. As soon as Adam and Eve lapsed in listening the entire creation fell into decay. We might be able to take a point from this.

    Isaiah 1:2,3 are great verses. God is fed up with “His people.” He created them, made them all that they are and yet they won’t listen. Donkeys and oxen know how to listen to their master. Even animals know how to obey the one who feeds them.

    Oh how dumb people are.

    It boggles my mind how adamant many “christians” get trying to convince themselves they really don’t have to listen to God. You do. It’s pretty much the whole point of your existence. Why do we want to listen to us anymore anyway?

     We’re saved by grace through faith. Believe and you will be saved. Faith means listening to God. Not just once when you “got saved.” Oh no! The just shall live by faith. Justified people listen to God. It’s required. It’s the whole point.

    (My exposition of Isaiah 1 is found here.)

    Criticisms of the Prophets

    I began preaching in Isaiah today. I like the prophets. There are three main reasons why people don’t like the prophets, that I have heard.

    1) Too repetitious. And by that people mean that they repeat themselves. Lots of talk about judgment. Lots of talk about future glory. On and on, over and over.

    2) Too Obscure. Talks about ancient places and people we have no clue about. Uses language that is obscure in places. Very weird things take place with prophets.

    3) Too depressing. Of all the criticisms, this one I don’t get. Sure the prophets talk about sin and judgment but the prophets also include lots about hope, salvation, promises and other good stuff. Some of the most beautiful verses in the Bible are found in the prophets.

    Most of these criticisms are only valid if you rarely read these books. The more you read them the more fascinating and beautiful they become.

    If God were not a God of grace there would be no need for prophets. If grace disappeared there would be no point for warning people about coming judgment. The greater His grace in warning people shows the greater His judgment must be.

    O thank God for grace! Don’t take it in vain!

    Successful Preaching

    God told Elijah to tell king Ahab that it wasn’t going to rain for three years. After Elijah delivered his message, God told Elijah to go live by a brook.

    Put those two things together now. When it doesn’t rain there ceases to be water. When there ceases to be water there ceases to be brooks. Elijah’s preaching resulted in the drying up of his brook.

    Elijah’s preaching did exactly what God said it would do. It accomplished everything it set out to accomplish. The result was not church growth, or riches or even water. It resulted in personal cost–thirst.

    But God had a plan, deliverance would come from a widow preparing to eat her last meal. It is often true that the best preachers, the ones who proclaim God’s truth, are ones who are rejected.

    John the Baptist preached his head off. Christ preached His way onto a cross. John preached his way into prison. Paul was left alone, in prison and then beheaded.

    Don’t be surprised when the world hates you. Nor be surprised when the “church” hates you, they’re often the same thing. You may be thirsty. You may suffer. But God vindicates His people and what a day it will be.

    Faith and Tempting God

    Ezra 8:22 is a great verse. It’s not great because it reveals some deep theological truth or doctrine that lifts the spirit. It’s great because it’s a revelation of human nature. One of those passages a guy can relate to.

    “For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.”

    When you say stuff, you’re sort of bound to act on it! This is OK when it’s easy stuff, like “we’re having pizza for supper.” But when you make bold statements about faith you often find yourself in a hole.

    Really? Do you really believe what you just said? Sometimes this is just plain folly, stuff we never should have said. Other times it helps us make real the fuzzy notions in our heads.

    Ezra made it. God did come through for him. Ezra believed what he said more now then he did when he said it. We must be careful in crossing the line between faith and tempting God. We should also be careful to do what we say and thus, watch what we say.

    Biblical Drivel

    Facebook has an ad that caught my attention. It said “Learn how to advertise like God.” It intrigued me enough to go look.

    This “Christian” advertising agency advertises how God advertised to Moses. Seriously, that’s what they claim. There’s a four step advertising process, borrowed from Exodus 3.

    The first job of marketing is to CAPTURE ATTENTION–burning bushes
    The second job of marketing is to ENGAGE its AUDIENCE–God talks from the bush
    The third job of marketing is to EDUCATE–God tells Moses who He is
    The fourth job of marketing is to make you an offer–Go get my people out of Egypt

    And, if he acts now, God might throw in some Egyptians, too!

    Oh people.

    Oh, the things that people’s stupidity with Scripture can do to a pastor. The internal machinations ripping and tearing within. The rupturing of spleens. The drops of sweat. Seeing floaty things.

    Even so, come quickly.

    Almost and Altogether

    Almost is not enough.

    In Acts 26 Agrippa tells Paul, “Almost though persuadest me to be a Christian.” He almost got it.

    Paul agrees with his assessment too. Paul says that Agrippa knows Jewish scripture and customs, he should know that God raising the dead is not that hard, he even knows that Agrippa believes the prophets and he also knows Paul’s life and radical testimony.

    Agrippa almost became a Christian with all this knowledge. Paul’s response to him is “I would to God. . . that you were both almost, and altogether such as I am.”

    Almost isn’t enough. It’s good enough for nuclear warfare, but it’s not good enough for salvation. It’s not good enough for a drowning many to almost be above the water. It’s not good enough for a house fire to almost be extinguished.

    Salvation doesn’t come by almost, it comes by altogether.

    Possible Benefit of Legalism

    I am no fan of legalism. Doing stuff to be impressive to others and thinking this wins points with God is arrogant and blasphemous. The believer is required to view legalism this way as this is how Christ viewed it. Being a whitened sepulchre does not remove dead bones within.

    In my mind, the only worse state of mind to be in is one of total care-free, no worries, God loves us all and we’re all in, so don’t worry.

    Legalism is better than hardened conscious, unchecked liberty (as opposed to Christ given liberty). Here’s why I state this: at least the legalist is aware of God’s law and the Law is a schoolmaster to bring people to Christ.

    However, on saying this, legalism is not redeemed by that possibility. I’m just sayin, that’s all.

    Chuck Swindoll on Spiritual Leadership

    Chuck Swindoll was recently given a Lifetime Achievement Award. In his acceptance speech he listed the top ten lessons he has learned in almost 50 years of leadership.

    1) It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.
    2) It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed
    3) It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary.
    4) It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders. Stay real.
    5) It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.
    6) Brokenness and failure are necessary.
    7) Attitude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.
    8) Integrity eclipse image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.
    9) God’s way is better than my way.
    10) Christlikeness begins and ends with humility.

    John Murray on Sanctification

    “God’s working in us [in sanctification] is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works.

    “Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did His part and we did ours so that the conjunction or coordination of both produced the required result.

    “God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work.”

    Children of Worthlessness

    Matt Belisl pitches for the Colorado Rockies. In fact, as I write this, he is pitching against the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and doing a fine job.

    I was wondering, if Matt has kids if they are ever called “the children of belisl.” I would call them that, but I read the KJV and this is only something that a KJV reader would think of. And probably being a tad odd would also help you think of such things.

    Killing Children

    Psalm 137:9 is a verse that gets attention when snide high school “Christian” guys write it at the end of their emails or letters. Funny stuff, eh? I know I did it a few times. However, killing your kids is not fun (how’s that for a clarifying statement?!).

    I one time got in trouble at my church for using the following illustration:

    There may come a point in my child’s life where they do something so stupid, so wrong, so disrespectful that I might feel like killing them.

    But never, ever would I feel like killing my child for something YOU did that was so stupid, so wrong or so disrespectful. And yet God the Father precisely did that for you.

    I got in trouble because someone thought it was wrong for me to say I might kill my kid. Ah yes, the joys of pastoring. Thanks for missing the point.

    God wants to save sinners. He wants it so bad He even killed His Son to get it. Do we really understand that point? Your life required the death of God’s Son?

    How shall we then live?

    The Foundation

    The other day my children decided to be helpful. They wanted to dig in the dirt so I told them to dig in the woods and bring wagon-loads of dirt to put by the house. By a corner of our foundation, there is an area where rain water collects and once made it into the basement.

    The primary cause of this water collection that once made it through the foundation into the basement was: children! Children who used to dig, not on the acre and a half of woods I bought them, but right next to the foundation where rain water comes.

    A man has to protect his foundation or else things leak in. Bad things. Things that destroy and crack foundations.

    The Church’s foundation has largely cracked and is being destroyed. It’s because, although we are near the foundation, we tend to spend more time digging next to it rather than protecting and establishing it.

    There is no foundation but this: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It’s what we stand on. If Christ is not who He said He was and He did not do what the Bible says He did, we are of all men most miserable.

    Find that foundation and protect it.

    J. C. Ryle on Sanctification

    “Let us beware of any hope that does not exercise a sanctifying influence over our hearts, lives, tastes, conduct, and conversation. It is a hope that never came down from above. It is mere base metal, and counterfeit coin. It lacks the mint-stamp of the Holy Ghost, and will never pass current in heaven.

    “A man may talk of his hope as much as he pleases, but he has none in reality. His religion is a joy to the devil, a stumbling block to the world, a sorrow to true Christians, and an offense to God.”

    ~ J.C. Ryle

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